From an Author Unknown…

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Jesus and Alexander

Jesus and Alexander both died at thirty-three;

One – he lived and died for self, and the Other for you and me.

One met his death upon a throne and the Other upon a cross;

One’s life a seeming victory, whilst the Other’s seemed a loss.

The one, he led vast armies forth, whilst the Other, He walked alone:

One shed a vanquished people’s blood, whilst the Other, He gave His own.

One won the world in life and then lost it all in death;

Whilst the Other lost His life – to win the world through faith.

So Jesus and Alexander both died at thirty-three;

One of them in Babylon and the Other at Calvary.

And one gained all just for himself, whilst the Other Himself He gave.

And one, he conquered every throne, but the Other – every grave!

The Lamb and the Lion……

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In the observance of The Feast of Passover, which begins at sundown tonight, we are reminded not only of how God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt but of how He ultimately delivers all peoples and nations from “bondage.”

It is a most powerful and prophetic picture of the power of sacrificial blood…..and as such, both the shadow and the key to an understanding of the significance of Christ’s ministry as The Lamb of God… To ransom – in spiritual terms – a terminally-sick, hopelessly impoverished, doomed humanity.

It is a mission, encapsulated in the most simple and beautiful way by the Prophet, Isaiah:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”

In this very first line of Isaiah’s well-known account of the birth, rule and reign of the promised Messiah, we are presented with the mission of Christ, from cradle to Cross….. a mission that was to be but the first part of a 2-fold redemptive purpose, separated in time and space by millennia… and operating in the unseen dimensions of existence as well as the seen.

The Bible speaks very clearly of these 2 stages to Christ’s redemptive ministry; the first as the Lamb of God, the suffering servant “pierced for our transgressions” and the second, as (the yet to come) Lion of Judah, the triumphant (Messiah) King, recorded in the Book of Isaiah.

Understanding the relationship between these two distinct parts to the full Ministry and Mission of Christ is pivotal to understanding the full and complete purpose of the whole counsel of God. While the first part – a spiritual matter – required the perfect sacrifice, the concluding part – very much a physical matter – requires a triumphant King, appointed by the Creator Himself.

Thus, at Christ’s First Coming, prophesied and recorded in detail in over 300 separate verses of Scripture, the Messiah came to bring redemption to our souls….through His unique sacrifice – as the Lamb of God – for the sins of a world where, in the words of the prophet,

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

At His Second Coming– as the Lion of Judah – He will perform and complete the second stage of the Divine Purpose…..and fulfill the manifold prophecies of the Messiah King, as recorded in the Scriptures.

And so, shall the kingdoms of this world become “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah” (Revelation 11:15)

No other “Rescue Plan” can do all that Christ alone was appointed before the beginning of time to do – to reverse the visible and invisible damage caused in a calamitous Fall from Grace; that would, in a word, save the world as no-one and nothing else can and usher mankind into the real “New Age” – an Age nowhere better recorded than in the account of the Prophet Isaiah, of the birth, rule and reign of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings:-

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom

Establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.”

The “zeal” of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this, the Prophet asserts. The Hope and Promise of a True and Faithful God to a world of ever increasing need and burgeoning, heartrending distress.

 

 

The Reason for the Season

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I shall never forget the very first time I saw a Christmas Tree decorated from floor to ceiling in light – quite literally. Tiny little candles painstakingly attached to every single branch of a huge pine tree that filled its space, the room and the people round it with sheer delight! If I close my eyes now, I can still see that beautiful tree…

For all sorts of reasons, this has been a year when my mind has returned time and time again to pondering the whole fascinating theme of LIGHT – in all its many applications and ramifications. Perhaps it has something to do with a world spinning further and further off course, returning – in so many shapes and forms – into that state of chaos, it increasingly seems, that eons ago, prompted the Creator to declare, “Let there be Light!”

Auspiciously….. and very much in keeping with Light reflections…..this year (and next it seems), it just happens that the Jewish “Festival of Lights” known as Hanukkah, actually begins at sunset on December 24th. Tonight then, while Christians the world over are celebrating Christmas Eve, Jewish people everywhere will be lighting the first Hanukkah candle. As one esteemed Rabbi comments, “This year’s coinciding holidays serve as a reminder of the bond between Christians and Jews and our shared biblical tradition.” It is a point further emphasised in Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Christmas greeting to Christians worldwide.

This “coinciding” of Christmas and Hanukkah is significant for other reasons too – reasons that have much to do with the true time frame of the momentous event Christians celebrate at this time of year.

From the clues gleaned from careful study and piecing together information in the gospel accounts and other key scriptures, it is possible to work out, almost to the day, the exact date on which Jesus Christ was born. And contrary to western tradition, it is now quite certain that Jesus was not in fact born in December but during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles that takes place either in September or October (on the western calendar.)

If the 25th of December does not, however, represent the precise day and date when Christ was born, it is entirely possible that it might be the time of year – if not the day itself – when, as the gospel account of the apostle John describes it, “the Word was made flesh”….. when Christ in fact was conceived, miraculously, in the womb of a young virgin….. timed by Heaven, to take place during the December, Jewish celebration of Lights.

The plot thickens!! For the first day of the Festival of Lights is always – on the Jewish calendar – on the 25th of the month, a number known to the Hebrew scholar, to represent the word “Light.” How extraordinary, then, that the very date Christians all over the world have celebrated Christ’s Birth for centuries, should also happen to fall on the 25th!

Of course the kill-joys and the sceptics will persist in their old argument that we cannot possibly know the actual day that Christ was born (let alone conceived!)…. while others will reject the celebration of Christmas on the grounds of its pagan origins and traditions.

Both – to my way of thinking – overlook the unfathomable depths and immensity of God’s Love for His Creation and the fact that, quite simply, nothing is impossible with Him. Can He not easily overlay the imperfections and limited intelligence and knowledge of man with His own limitless and perfect wisdom? And be propelled by Compassion to do so, knowing all too well our feeble “frame?” And ultimately, is it not less our choice than HIS that we should celebrate the coming of LIGHT into a darkened world and creation on a date chosen by divine ordinance to signify LIGHT?

Light is indeed a wonderful image for the Saviour of mankind, especially prominent in John’s Gospel account, abounding as it does, with references equating Him with this essential life-giving force. Not simply life-giving either, but life-illuminating as its meaning in the Hebrew language infers. It is a theme beautifully explored in Holman Hunt’s (1827-1910) breathtaking masterpiece, entitled “The Light of the World.” The painting, donated to St. Paul’s in 1908, now stands above the altar in a tiny chapel within the cathedral, inviting any passer-by to spend some quiet time in contemplation. It reminds me of all I cherish and celebrate in the Christmas season…. wrapped up in that simple announcement of the prophet Isaiah, “Unto us a child is born……”

And so… as I ponder these mysteries again this Christmas season – and light a candle in honour of Hanukkah – I think of that very first heartbeat of the SON of LIGHT…. as He begins His earthly existence in Mary’s womb…. a little pinpoint of Light and Life, destined from before the beginning of time to rescue and redeem a lost and fallen world…..as only HE would be able to do.

And my prayer is ever, “LORD, Let there be Light”…….. the LIGHT that manifested itself in the most extraordinary way over 2000 years ago in a single tiny pulse of the purest, miracle-working supernatural Light… the Light that heals, transforms….brings Hope, gives Life…..the Light that comforts shattered lives and broken hearts and of which it takes only the tiniest glimmer, to compromise the deepest darkness. This is the Glad Tidings of Great Joy that fills my heart and soul with LIGHT at Christmas.

Notes

  1. Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and it remembers the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This happened in the 160s BCE/BC. (Hanukkah is the Jewish word for “dedication.”)
  2. A good account of how scholars have used the Scriptures to work out when Christ was born can be found here:

    http://jerusalemchannel.tv/god-really-want-us-celebrate-christmas/